International Relations Origin and Growth

In ancient times, Aristotle said: “Man by nature and necessity is a social animal.” A man who can live without other beings is either a God or a beast. In modern times we can safely say that no nation or country can live in isolation. The co-existence of nations is the order of the day. No doubt, every nation is independent and sovereign; nevertheless, it counts on other nations of the world in several respects. Cordial relations and understanding among nations have become an important phenomenon of modern life. International Relations have thus assumed great pragmatic and academic significance in present times.

Though International Relations as an academic discipline is of a recent origin, relations among nations were as old a phenomenon as history. There were inter-tribal inter city-state and inter Kingdom relations even in the ancient age. One can find incidental references to war and peace issues in the religious texts and epic literature of ancient times, mostly with the pacifist approach. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, the Sumerian, the Assyrian, the Indian, the Chinese, the Greeks,s and the Rom had evolved a distinct code of inter-state conduct and a pattern of international relations. Out of the Fifteen Books of Kautilya’s Arthashastra, one was devoted exclusively to diplomacy.

But in the ancient world, international relations were incidental sporadic, and limited in nature. Mostly they were not global but merely regional in character. They were actually not international relations of the true sense of the term. They can, at best, be described as parochial and occasional interstate relations.

With the Renaissance and the reformation, international relations assumed a new character. After the Peace of West-Phalia in 1648, statehood became an ideal unit of humanity. With this, territorial sovereign and nation-state emerged as a basic political unit and an effective international relations actor. These sovereign states were very much aware of their independence, yet they were also conscious of the reality of interdependence in the modern world. Modern international relations began to grow in the paradoxical situation of independence and inter-dependence, separateness and closeness, individuality and mutuality, nationalism and internationalism. They continued to develop as a process of co-operation and conflict.

There was a manifold increase in the wants and needs of the various countries after the industrial Revolution. It was considered after the industrial Revolution; relations were a considerable improvement in transport and communications. Trade, transit, and transactions between the nations became the order of the day. Scientific and technological revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries further brought the nations nearer and closer. All these developments made international relations more regular, more comprehensive, more valuable day by day.

Their character became more and more global and broadened instead of regional and narrower. The industrial and scientific innovations had an impact on war technology and armaments. The trauma of the First World War, together with the demand for democratic control of foreign policy, stimulated the public urge to better understand foreign relations. The issues of war and peace came to the forefront. These developments attracted people’s attention to the growing importance of international relations and provided the ground for creating international relations as an academic discipline.

Development As An Academic Discipline

Although international relations as a traditional feature of humanity are as old as the state itself, its study as an autonomous discipline is of comparatively recent origin. This discipline is so new that it can be called the youngest of all social sciences, as a separate subject, and endeavor to analyze the content and nature of inter-state cooperation and conflict coercion and persuasion. International Relations is integrally related to the first World War. Before this tragic event, in the words of Zimmern, “there was no teaching of the subject as such, and microscopic conscious study.”1

After the first world war, its study was initiated by the North Americans and the West Europeans.

By 1914, some universities in the United States organized lecture courses on the regional history of the Far East and Latin America, Diplomatic History, and United States foreign policy. The Departments of Economics incidentally taught topics like foreign trade, international exchange, and foreign investment. But there was no regular and systematic course of International Relations before the First World War.

The first chair of International Politics was founded in historians like Alfred Zimmern, C. K. Webster, E.H. Carr, etc. were the Chair’s early occupants. With the seed of International Relations as an autonomous academic discipline was sown. In the 1920s, the USA’s rise as a global power encouraged the teaching of International Relations as an independent subject there. But in the USSR, it was not recognized as a separate discipline even after World War II. It was still a part of history in the Moscow State University right up to the mid-sixties. In Afro-Asian countries, different universities gradually started its study after decolonization in the post Second World War period.

An introduction to the Study of International Relations was the earliest textbook in the discipline. It was jointly written by Grant, Hughes, Greenwood, Kerr, and Urquhart and published in Britain in 1916. Lord Bryce delivered a series of eight lectures in the United States in 1921. Next year these were published an International Relations. He observed that my subject was rather vast, which was closely connected with nearly every branch of principal human sciences, Ethics, Economics, Law and Politics.2

He advocated that the cause of International peace could only be strengthened with the increase of popular grasp of the themes and issues of International Relations. In 1922 E. A. Walsh edited a volume on The History and Nature of International Relations from New York. In 1925, Professor Buell, Research director, Foreign Policy Association USA, published a lengthy text on International Relations. All these earlier books helped in the growth of International Relations as an academic discipline. Another significant development in this regard is the preparation and publication by Professor Moon of History Columbia University (U. S. A) of 1926 a Syllabus on International Relations. It consisted of the following:-

  • Introduction,
  • Nationalism, Territorial Conflicts and War,
  • Imperialism and World Politics
  • Militarism and Armaments,
  • History of International Relations since 1914,
  • Summary review of Policies of Great Powers,
  • Economic Problems
  • Problems of Diplomacy, and
  • International Organization, League of Nations, and the World Court.

Between 1900 and 1939, the study of International Relations was gradually progressing, and its different aspects were explored. As an academic discipline, it received a wider recognition during the interwar period, and each year provided additional justification for a more serious study and concern for International Relations. Its development was further aided by the following factors: Setting up of University Chairs.

(i). In 1919 University of Wales (Britain) set-up separate chairs on International Relations. Its first two incumbents were Sir Alfred Zimmern Sir Charles Webster-both historians.
(ii).  In U. S. A School of Foreign Service came into existence at Georgetown University in 1919, and a School of International Relations University of Southern California in 1924. By 1930 most of the American Universities had one or more courses on International Relations.
(iii). In Paris, the Institute of Advanced International Studies was founded in 1923 under the Faculty of Law. The same Institute was reorganized in 1946.

Research Bodies

(i). In U. S. A, in 1910, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was established in Washington, D. C.  It organized conferences, exchange scholars, and promoted and published research papers.
(ii) In Union of Democratic Control of 1914 done the spadework in England to exchange International Relations as an academic discipline.
(iii) In 1918, two research bodies in New York have formed the Foreign Policy Association and the Council on Foreign Relations. The aim of both to stimulate wider interest in International Relations, policy issues confronting the United States and encourage more participation in world affairs by the citizens. They also publish important periodicals on International Relations. These are bi-monthly, headline series, and quarterly, Foreign Affairs.
(iv) Royal Institute of International Affairs was established in 1920 in London. It had affiliated institutes in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Pakistan. Its annual publication. Survey of International Affairs and a quarterly journal, International Affairs promoted study and research in International Relations.
(v) New Commonwealth Institute, set up in London in 1934, was subsequently renamed the London Institute of World Affairs. It releases a journal, World Affairs, and an annual volume. The Year Book of World Affairs.
(vi) By 1935, a research organization named the Institute of International Affairs has also formed in Paris.
(vii). India did not lag. A non-government organization-Indian Council of World Affairs was established in New Delhi in 1943 for promoting interest in foreign relations and world affairs. It also publishes a journal India Quarterly and other significant documents and publications.

Role of League

The League of Nations also played a role in developing International Relations as a separate subject. The league encouraged the study by its work as a form in international discussions and sponsoring a series of International Studies Conferences through its Institute of International Cooperation. The Geneva Institute of International Relations served as an intermediary between the League and the growing subject of International Relations on the level of Universities.

After the Second World War

This total war once more exhibited the costly and perilous character of the institution of war. It underlined the compelling need to improve inter-state relations techniques for the survival of the human race. During this war, the military installations in different parts of the world created the necessity to develop area studies as an effective direction mark to assist the army personnel. This area study became a breakthrough in the discipline of International Relations.

With the end of the Second World War came nuclear technology, the U. N. O, and political independence to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Nuclear proliferation completely changed the factors governing international relations. The question of war and peach became the key issue for humanity. The political and military impacts of nuclear energy have opened up new frontiers for International Relations study. In fact, this study has already moved from a mere academic curiosity to the very defense of human civilization in a nuclear age.

The creation of a universal organization United nations and its specialized Agencies have given an additional stimulus to the development of the study of International Relations. The UNESCO sponsored conference of representatives of Universities in 1948 gave a call to establish a department chair for systematic teaching, study, and research of International Relations. The UNESCO has also sponsored The University Teaching of Social Sciences. International Relations and this International survey were edited by Professor Manning of the University of London in 1954.

Asian, African, and Latin American countries gained political freedom after the Second World War. With the emergence of these new states, the scope of International Relations expanded. International Relations no longer remained the exclusive preserve of Europe and the West. The domination of Europe in the last four hundred years came to an end. International Relations truly assumed an international character. This horizontal expansion of International Relations has led to International Relations courses and departments in all new countries. These newly independent states had to develop foreign relations afresh, which required the International Relations discipline development.

Along with the horizontal expansion of International Relations, new frontiers were discernible on the vertical side. The socioeconomic and cultural-ideological aspects of interstate relations, the problems, and economic development programs demonstrate the vertical developments in post-Second World War international relations. Some of the international problems are erosion of national sovereignty and the phenomenon of trans-nationality, world oligarchy, and world mass the problem of rich ‘North’ and poor ‘South’ in international society, the threat of nuclear capabilities and the problem of demilitarization, the protection of the human environment and the alternative restructuring of the international system.3

The tendency of revolt against the existing sovereignty and an urge for distribution of power and authority the world over seems to have acquired a global dimension. By 1989, this tendency has even crept into the once highly regimented and centrally controlled part of the world, the Soviet Union, and East Europe. The international systems have also developed natural resistance to the malaise of national sovereign powers’ political exclusivity. The working of various non-government, trans-nations, and supra nations agencies are indicative of it.

The emergence of international agencies such as GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), IMF (International Money Fund), and the IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) has made possible a collaborative structure of the world economy. These certainly show a trend from “transnationality” to “internationality.” The proliferation of multi-nation corporations (MNC) is another evidence of an economic enterprise’s expanding trend beyond national boundaries. The U. N specialized agencies FAO, ICAO, ILO, IUU, UPU, WHO, UNESCO, etc., are also contributing their might to the various aspects of human life.

There is a combination of collaboration and collision in the relationship between the world oligarchy and masses, though collaboration arises out of expediency than mutual admiration. The world’s rich regularly attract allies from the world’s poor to widen their sphere of influence and consolidate their position in the oligarchy’s factional rivalry. This they do with the help of massive economic and military aid to the world’s poor. On their part, the poor also chose allies among the oligarchy and, during the process, often succeed in demonstrating how ably the week can use the power for achieving the desired goals. The small powers have more than once asserted that they require “Friends no Masters,” and they want to be partners and not satellites.

Despite the collaborative nature of oligarchy mass relationships, there certainly prevails a big gap between the rich and the poor. This gap is increasing day by day. Economic inequality between the rich North and the poor South became another important world issue in the seventies and eighties. Poor Third World countries of the South raised the demand for new and just international economic order (NIEO). The need for disarmament and DE-nuclearization has been felt by the world community. Several partial steps have also been taken in this direction by the UN as well as by the big powers, yet the problems call for multi-tier efforts for its solution. SALT, START, and INF, etc., are to be strengthened.

The larger issue of environmental protection is another aspect of contemporary international politics that has been troubling practically every thinking person and community globally. The environmental problem is primarily being viewed as a global concern. Similarly, the World Order Models Project (WOMP) has been another international trend both as an institution and an intellectual tradition. It is a trans-nations research endeavor initially intended to explore the elimination of war as a human social institution. Later on, many distinguished scholars and thinkers from various nationalities joined it to project issues and the problem of global reform, both political and no political. In brief, the WOMP is for searching the “normative basis and the constitutive structure of the global community.”4

Stages of Development:

International Relations, as the youngest social science, had its genesis in the first half of the twentieth century and attained its adulthood in the post-second world war period passing through several trends and stages. Kenneth Thompson has summed up its development in the following four stages.5

In the first stage, which runs up to the end of the First World War, International Relations were taught by diplomatic historians who were more interested in history than in politics. Their main concern was the description of past events rather than the analysis of present ones and their future projection. This historical approach could not develop a theoretical core for the discipline.

During the second stage, starting after the end of the First World War, only the current affairs study was stressed. Hence this approach was also partial since it gave importance to the present without much reference to the past. Thus both in the first and second stages, the approach was one-sided.

As the second period, the third period also began after the First World War and continued to exist throughout the inter-war years and even after. Suffered by the First World War, the prevailing scholarship adopted an essentially moralistic legalistic approach and renounced the war. The emphasis was shifted to reformist; the objective was to establish a healthy world order free of war and conflicts. Much hope was pinned on the League of Nations, which was expected to replace narrow nationalism with internationalism and remove war. International law, as well as international organizations, were given importance.

The statesmanlike President Wilson and scholars like Potter, Shot well, Fenwick, etc., had great faith in the newly set up League of Nations. During the period, the thrust was not to understand international relations’ nature but to develop legal institutions and organizational devices. In short, this approach was not sound as it emphasized ideals and ignored the hard realities of international life.

The fourth stage came after the Second World War. The War and its devastation shake people’s faith in international organizations’ utility and law as an instrument of peace. The emphasis shifted to making scientific analysis of the developments in international politics. Scientific studies were undertaken on what causes war and how to avert it. Forces and influences which shape and condition the behavior of states became the chief concern of the study. These forces and influences were determinants of foreign policies, foreign relations techniques, the mode of the resolution of international conflicts, and crisis management. The objective of studying international problems was not to praise or condemn them but to understand them.

In the 1950s and early 60s, the Realists became the prevalent school. Among the principal prophets of political realism were E. H. Carr, Hans J. Morgenthau, Kenneth W. Thompson, Reinhold Niebuhr, George F. Kennan, Henry A. Kissinger. Their collective message about how world politics and international behavior ought to be can be described as opposite to what idealists said. According to realists, power is a means, as well as an end in itself. International politics is nothing but a power struggle. Every state seeks more power to use it to have more of it and, with its help, fulfill other important national interests.

On the other hand, during this stage, Marxist scholars retained their views about the inevitability of communism’s victory over capitalism.

Thus the thrust in and subject matter of International Relations altered in the fourth stage after the Second World. This change was the outcome of various new factors in international life, such as technological development, growing liquidation of colonialism, the rise of the new nations the emergence of new universal values, demographic shifts, invention and expansion of nuclear technology, the emergence of multilateral enterprises, growth of international institutions and above all, the desire for seeking a theoretical order in the knowledge of international affairs.
Thompson described these four stages of the development of International Relations in the fifties. In contrast, so many new things have happened in the world since then, and the study of International Relations has accordingly taken several new forms and contents. The following stages may be added to understand the development of the discipline up-to-date.

The fifth stage may be counted from the mid-sixties to the seventies. In the words of Kegley and Wittkopf, “the post realist paradigm is appropriately labeled the behavioral approach to the study of International Relations. What ensued as this paradigm-shift occurred was an extensive and often heated debate over the principles and procedures most appropriate for investigating international phenomena.”6

The behavioral approach sought law-like generalizations about international phenomena, that is, statements about patterns and regularities presumed to hold across time and space. Thus, the quantitative study of International Relations was made by Singer (1968), Zinnes (1976), Hoole and Zinnes (1976), La Barr and Singer (1976), and Rosenau (1969 and 1971).

For some time, as a unit of analysis, the national state seemed to lose it’s per eminence, and attempts were made to search out the real forces of international politics and the more relevant analysis unit such as small groups, trans-national organizations, and bureaucracies. Non-state actors such as international organizations, institutions, and multinational corporations became the subject-matter of the study-this trans-national perspective (Keohane and Nye, 1971) and 1977 and Feld, 1979), a theoretical attempt to respond to the development of these global circumstances. A few years later, it was realized that despite the intrusion of these new factors on the canvas of world politics, the national state continued to be an important factor. Despite arguments supporting the respective ideological international system, the nation-state remained intact and their interests supreme.

While the Cold War was the main subject of the scholarly output in International Relations in the fifties and sixties, and it remained pervasive throughout the sixties, detente attracted many scholars’ attention throughout the seventies. The behavioral approach was discarded, and post behavioral stepped in.

The disparities between the worlds rich and poor continue to grow. This widening problem has generated a new debate on the North-South conflict’s global political agenda, which overlaps and affects other more traditional differences. The North-South conflict has been caused by the disparities in global incomes and living standards and a three-fold increase in the number of independent nation-states since World War II.

During this stage, the South’s demand for the New International Economic Order became a subject of discussion and analysis in International Relations. Other concepts used and studied were Neo-imperialism, dependence, structural aggression, political economy, interdependence, etc. Peace research was also revived, and some people looked to theories of arms control and ways of balancing power with power. Global stability, world order, and global violence control were discussed by functionalists, Neo-functionalists, world federalists, and integration theorists.7 Ethically concerned futurologists came with their World Order Models Project that asked the people to contemplate different and alternative worlds for a better and peaceful future. These trends and studies were known as the post-behavioral era.

The Sixth stage runs from the late seventies to the first half of the eighties. During this period, doubts were raised on the detente’s efficacy, and the New Cold War emerged. The Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan, and the Reagan administration of the US threatened the world by talking of the Star War program. Economic issues, ecological and environmental problems became the concern of the whole world. These factors influenced the study of International Relations.

With the steady process of multi-polarization, the West’s scholars, especially the United States, gradually showed interest in Third World countries. Area studies and programs were undertaken by the US and Britain universities, and for the field, data researchers were sent to the countries under study.

In many important areas of the discipline, contemporary theorizing involves conscious or subconscious rationalization of the West’s part, particularly the USA, in the International Relations of the twentieth country. But the Western perspective and the Western theories of International Relations were challenged by the intellectuals of the Third Word. According to them, in many cases, Western theories are irrelevant and inapplicable to the less developed countries, which constitute two-thirds of the UN membership and a great majority of the human race. Third World scholars have analyzed the inadequacies of the Western theories and the limitations of the Marxist-Leninist theory of international relations.8

S. P. Verma explains Third World writers’ mood who feel that International Relations theories “strongly favor capitalist countries. Unless extensive measures are adopted to eliminate the structures hampering development in the Third World countries, the character of international economic relations will not change. The Third World countries ask that the industrialized countries give up the use of interdependence as a smokescreen for promoting their own selfish interests. They demand a more credible effort on the part of the capitalist countries to establish a more egalitarian world economy.”9

In this way, Third World and non-Western perspectives came to the fore.

The seventh stage of International Relations began in 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev came on the scene. International Relations have passed into a qualitatively new era with the advent of Gorbachev’s “new political thinking” for the world. It was a dynamic concept which continued to deepen and grow. New thinking recognized balance of interests instead of the balance of power, co-operation instead of confrontation, internationalization instead of nationalization, disarmament instead of armament, and DE-ideologisation of interstate relations instead of ideologization, detente instate of Cold War.10

It believed in peaceful coexistence and equal security for all.

Initially, the US was suspicious about Gorbachev’s moves. But later on, it realized his sincerity of purpose and started responding positively towards new political thinking. It has made a positive impact on various aspects of international relations, e. g. end of Soviet-American Cold War and revival of detente, thaw in Sino-Soviet split, solution of regional conflicts, freedom of East Europe, improving relations between the Soviet Union and West Europe, the unification of Germany, progress towards disarmament, etc. Failure of Communism, the collapse of the East bloc, German unification, and US success in getting Kuwait vacated from Iraq; all these developments have enhanced the power of the US vis-a-vis the USSR. These happenings and changes became the subject of analysis in the discipline of International Relations in the late eighties and early nineties.

The eighth stage commenced in the early nineties when the discipline of International Relations witnessed another turning point with the disintegration of the Soviet Union as a superpower. The republics of the USSR and Yugoslavia became independent States. On the other hand, West European countries became more integrated into the European Community. It seems that the US is the only superpower left, and the world is becoming unipolar. Third World countries are facing the worst economic crisis. These countries and the erstwhile disintegrated communist bloc countries are desperately seeking help from Western nations, especially the US. On its part, the US pressurizes and bullying these countries to toe its line and accept their conditional ties. The pattern of international relations in the post-communist world will be different from the previous pattern. The study of this new pattern will be the main focus in this stage of development.

The origin, growth, and development of International Relations can be traced to the twentieth century. It is, therefore, a comparatively new discipline. During this short span, the subject has passed through different phases and stages. Its own perspective and approach mark every phase. With the change of International Relations, there was a corresponding change in its study and emphasis. Despite this growth, the discipline is still young, and it may pass through several more stages of development in the years ahead. It is being studied as a part of political science, history, economics, and at the same time as an autonomous academic discipline.

This discipline began after the First World War and grew rapidly after the Second World War. In the post-world War-II period, the factors that contributed towards its development can be summarized as the fear of total war, technological development, the establishment of UNO, the emergence of new states after decolonization, coming on the scene of trans-national and supra-national agencies, economic inequality between North and South, concern for environmental protection, nuclearization, and DE-nuclearization, bi polarization and multi-polarization, cold war and detente, idealization and DE-ideologization, desire for a theoretical framework, concern for peace and new world order, etc.

International Relations is interdisciplinary, iconoclastic, and of recent origin. It developed from normative theory to causal theory, from idealism to realism, from realism to behaviorism and scientism. Though it is neither well organized nor fully scientific nor having a complete conceptual framework yet, it has developed itself from an allied branch of political sciences and history to an autonomous discipline.

1. A. Zimmern (ed., University Teaching of International Relations (Paris, 1939), p. ix.
2. J. Bryce, International Relations (London, 1922), p. I.
3. Anam Jaitly, International Politics Major Contemporary Trends and issues (New Delhi 1984), p. 14.
4. Saul H. Mendlovitz Introduction, depicting the genesis and growth of the WOMP in Mendlovitz (ed. On The Creation of a Just World Order-Preferred world for the 1990s. New Delhi, 1975, p. xii-xvii.
5. Kenneth W. Thompson, The Study of International Politics A survey of Trends and Developments Review of Politics (Note Dame), 14 Oct. 1952, pp. 433-67.
6. Charies W. Kegley, Jr. and Eugene R Wittkopf, world Politics : Trend and Transformation (New York, 1981), p. 22.
7. For a detailed study of all these see, ibid.
8. For detail, see Jayantanuja Bandyopadhyaya, North Over South A Non-Western Perspective of International Relations (New Delhi, 1984) K. P. Misra and Richard Smith Beal (Ed. International Relations Theory Western and Non-Western Perspective (New Delhi, 1980).
9. S. Verma, Inter Dependence: The Third World Perspectives in K. P. Misra and Richard Smith Beal (Ed.), ibid. p. 135.
10. Vinay Kumar Malhotra, Gorbachevian Revolution in the Soviet Union collapse of Renewal of Socialism (New Delhi, 1991) p. 88.

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